Back pain and discomfort can be caused by all different types of injuries. Some are more common (such as a herniated disc), while others aren’t, such as in the case of a condition called pars defect. If a worker can prove it was caused by work-related tasks or it was worsened as a result, it may entitle the employee to workers’ compensation benefits.
What is pars defect and how do I know if this stems from my job?
If strain is placed on the part of the spinal column called the pars interarticularis in the lumbar spine, this can lead to a stress fracture, otherwise known as pars defect. The fracture may be on one or both sides of the lumbar vertebra. When it happens on both sides, it could cause slippage where one vertebra slips over another, a condition called spondylolisthesis.
Most of the time this injury occurs in the lower back. Common symptoms include pain and stiffness. But sometimes it’s accompanied by the feeling of pins and needles in a leg, which may also cause weakness or numbness.
Generally, the symptoms improve with rest and worsen with activity. The injury can be aggravated if the worker hyperextends his or her back.
It can be difficult to attribute a back injury to work. Back injuries are such common ailments that some employers will reject the notion that it’s job-related. However, if it can be shown that someone’s work tasks put strain on that part of the back, it might be easier to prove.
How is pars defect treated and can it lead to filing a workers’ compensation claim?
Along with a physical examination, a CT scan can usually detect a stress fracture. Initial treatment is generally conservative.
To treat pars defect, doctors first try:
- wearing a back brace; and
- physical therapy to strengthen the back and stomach muscles.
If surgery does become necessary, there are typically two types performed. One is a laminectomy. In this procedure the portion of the vertebra that’s fractured is removed. It’s more often done when nerves are compressed.
The second type is posterior lumbar fusion, where two or more bones are fused together. This is done when a spinal segment has become unstable or loose. With both types, rehabilitation may follow. A full recovery can sometimes take several months.
In order to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the worker must establish that the injury arose out of the scope of employment. Medical records and documentation of one’s job tasks may help establish the connection to the patient's employment.
If the claim is approved, benefits will pay for medical costs such as doctor visits, surgery, physical therapy and other necessary treatment. If the employee is disabled, partial wages may be paid. The amount will depend on the severity of the disability.
Do I need an attorney when pursuing workers’ compensation benefits?
If an employer or carrier refuses to cover a work-related injury, then it would likely require help from legal counsel. An attorney can explain the laws and assist with gathering all the necessary information and documentation to show that an injury was caused by the job.